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Reflections on London 2012

I was hoping for the Big Apple to win its bid for the 2012 Olympiad in spite of the fact that New York was not really expected to win. Instead, London pulled off an upset over Paris I was equally happy.

The year was 1948: it was the last time Wembley stadium held the Olympics. London still showing scars from a German WWII blitz. Among the US delegation was a diver who was the daughter of an English mother. The US Team was the heavy favorite to win all the medals in the diving events and placing among the Americans was the only to be judged.

“Victoria Draves became the first female diver in Olympic history to win two gold medals in both springboard and platform in the same games."

Victoria Draves became the first female diver in Olympic history to win two gold medals in both springboard and platform in the same games. It had been very memorable returning to the war torn city in which here mother hailed. She met her English aunts and uncles and was amazed at how the city was able to host the games. She remembers having steak with her English relatives in the Continental Hotel. She easily consumed the meat without realizing that it was horse meat, as London was still experiencing the aftermaths of war rationing. It was tough and she had tough beginnings, born in San Francisco of a Filipino father when mixed marriage were not readily accepted. Her father was a musician and went to the US with a string band from the Philippines. Her mother migrated from England to join a younger sister who also was married to a Filipino. She followed suit as her parents met and married in San Francisco where she grew up in the poor side of town, south of Market.

Victoria couldn't afford the luxuries of a carefree childhood.  She took summer swimming lessons from the Red Cross, paying five cents admission to a pool in the Mission district. Her early coach encouraged her to use her mother's maiden name Taylor so she could practice at the better facilities in the city. Her father came to watch her perform her diving at the flush and exclusive Fairmount Club and the security would not let him in. Her coach had to explain and Vickie learned a lesson in prejudice and diving.   She had to bring her lunch that she ate during her breaks. On the way home back she would be hungry and there was a bakery where she could smell fresh bread baking and she remembered speeding home to pass that rich aroma. She also grew up in a time during which men were being called for the military, including her first coach. She married her coach a couple of years before the London Olympics and the news reels read Victoria Draves.

Draves and decathlete Bob Mathias were named the U.S.'s top two athletes at the ‘48 Olympics by Life Magazine. She later toured the US in a water show appearing at times with the Olympic greats-turned movie stars like Johnny Weissmuller and Buster Crab.

“Fortunately, through my diving, I was able to meet all my relatives on both my mom's and dad's side,” she said. “In 1949, I was invited to the Philippines, and I spent a wonderful month there." She even went to Bataan not because of US History but it was her father's birthplace.

She was an advocate for the Filipino Education Center in the mid-1960s when the second wave of Filipino immigrants came to America and largely settled in the South of Market district.

A couple of years ago I met Vicki when she was honored by the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS). It was one of my proudest KODAK moments.

A few last notes
Last month the City of San Francisco honored Vicki by naming the former Bessie Carmichael Elementary School site (on Sherman and Folsom) as Victoria Manalo Draves Park.Our family even named our English Pointer, Vickie. Manalo incidentally meant victory or Victoria in Spanish.

I am looking forward at the London 2012 Olympiad to honor the half-English child who made Olympic history at the famous Wembley Stadium in 1948, the daughter of Gertrude Taylor and Teofilo Manalo.


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